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Our View: If voters hire you, will you stay or quit?

Published: Tuesday, July 15, 2014 5:30 a.m. CDT

If you are elected to the Legislature, will you quit before your term ends?

That question should be posed to every candidate for Illinois House and Senate in the Nov. 4 election.

Why?

Voters ought to know before the election whether candidates plan to serve a full term or they intend to step down early.

We’re not talking about reasonable resignations because of serious illness, election or appointment to a higher office, moving out of state and so forth.

We’re talking about resignations that seem to come from nowhere, for no good reason, that create a vacant seat to be filled, not by voters, but by party powerbrokers.

Already this summer, state Rep. JoAnn Osmond, R-Antioch, and state Rep. Chuck Jefferson, D-Rockford, have quit. Jefferson didn’t say why. Osmond said her son was getting married in September. Huh?

Party officials appoint the replacements to fill out unexpired terms. Voters are left out of the decisions.

In addition, state Rep. Josh Harms, R-Watseka, is taking his name off the November ballot. Again, party officials will nominate a replacement. Voters won’t have a say on who it is.

The pattern is not new.

Such resignations break faith with voters who elect people to serve a set amount of time in the Legislature. The practice also contributes to voter apathy and cynicism.

In contrast, we point to the example of former state Rep. Jerry Mitchell, R-Sterling, who decided not to seek re-election a few years ago and chose to serve out his full term.

Voters were treated to a Republican primary contest in March 2012 with four candidates – Li Arellano Jr., Tom Demmer, Chet Olson and Dan Sidmore – running for the Republican nomination. (In the GOP-dominated 90th District, no Democrats ran.)

After an intense campaign, voters nominated Demmer, who went on to win the general election.

That’s how to stir voter interest and involvement.

We find it ironic the Legislature and Gov. Pat Quinn support new measures to make voting easier, such as same-day registration.

The same bunch, however, remains quiet about lawmaker resignations that, time after time, take important decisions out of voters’ hands.

It’s up to voters, then, to pin down the candidates this fall on the key question:

If you are elected to the Legislature, will you quit before your term ends?

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